History of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy as we know it today had been around for centuries, however, the first documented case of cerebral palsy did not occur until 1861 when an English surgeon, by the name Dr. William Little, published a research article describing the difficulties of children with cerebral palsy specifically, spastic diplegia. To this day, spastic diplegia is occasionally called Little’s Disease. Dr. Little described this disorder as a condition that afflicted young children, characterized by spastic muscles in their arms and legs. The children experienced difficulty holding objects, and with ambulatory tasks such as crawling, and walking. Furthermore, they did not improve or get worse with age. Dr. Little believed this condition was caused by lack of oxygen at birth due to obstetrical complications.

By the1880’s Sir William Osler, a physician from England, popularized the term cerebral palsy. Also at this time the neurologist from Austria, Sigmund Freud, perhaps more widely known for his achievements in psychiatry, published a number of the original papers on cerebral palsy.

For the next several decades little research had been preformed to determine the cause or treatment of cerebral palsy. In fact, it was not until the 1980’s, when scientists analyzed extensive data from a government study of more than 35,000 births. They concluded that trauma at birth lead to the development of cerebral palsy in thousands of the children studied.

Fortunately, as of late, the amount of information on cerebral palsy has significantly increased. Today, scientists are working vigorously to help improve the lives of those with cerebral palsy

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